When it comes to a location for a new library Meaford residents have been vocal in their desire to have the municipality purchase the former Foodland building at 11 Sykes Street at the intersection with Trowbridge Street, and after a presentation to council on September 25, they just might get their way, though it will cost significantly more than some options already explored by council.
At their September 25 meeting, Meaford councillors were presented with the findings of a feasibility study undertaken at the request of council, aimed at determining if the building was a suitable candidate for the municipality to consider for a new library, and the associated costs.
Meaford Treasurer Darcy Chapman told council that the building is a suitable candidate for a new library, and he presented concept drawings of an interior floor plan and an overhauled exterior that could be achieved at a cost of roughly $4.4 million, including the purchase price of the property at $1.525 million, and renovation costs of $2.9 million.
While the estimated $4.4 million required to purchase and convert the former Foodland building into a library is $1 million more than the estimates previously presented to council for converting the municipally owned building at 390 Sykes Street, currently housing the OPP detachment along with an insurance company, Chapman said that the Foodland building option would allow the municipality to sell the 390 Sykes Street property for an estimated $700,000 to help fund the construction of a new library. Under that scenario the Foodland location would cost roughly $400,000 more than converting 390 Sykes Street into a library.
“The design achieves effective solutions for relocating the library, expanding the library program to serve a population of 8,000 people and consolidating library uses on a single floor. The proposal does involve renovation which comes with the inherent benefits and drawbacks of working with an existing building,” noted Chapman in his report to council.
Many residents as well as some members of council had suggested that the 390 Sykes Street location, while in the urban area of the municipality, was too far away from the downtown core to be a practical library location. The building at 390 Sykes Street is 1.2 kilometres away from the current library.
Chapman told council that the $4.4 million required to purchase the property and convert the building into a public library would be funded by development charges funding of $968,300, $700,000 from the sale of the 390 Sykes Street building, along with $2.75 million in long term debt. He also said that the plan would allow council to consider a renovation of the current library building in order to accommodate a new council chamber, which could make room for a relocated OPP detachment at the 7th Line facility where the current council chamber is located.
No cost estimates have been provided for the proposed renovation of the current library or the current council chamber facility in order to suit the proposed new uses, however Chapman noted that no matter which option council adopts, there will be costs to establish a new location for the OPP detachment.
“In an effort to prepare a comparative analysis it should be noted that irrespective of the preferred option, costs to develop new space for the OPP operations would likely be required in any scenario. In the event of relocating the OPP to the 7th Line or entering into a long term lease with Infrastructure Ontario, the existing facility at 390 Sykes Street would be sold to assist in funding the project. It is further anticipated that utilizing the existing Library for administrative functions and moving the Council Chambers is the best use of that space overall,” suggested Chapman in his report.
Members of council were cautiously optimistic about the potential for establishing a new library at the former Foodland location.
“This is the culmination of a lot of effort, and a lot of hard thinking,” noted Councillor Mike Poetker. “I am very encouraged by this, and I'm very encouraged by the comments of the people I meet on the street, and the letters that we receive, and the folks at the library who receive comments from ratepayers. The integral part that the library plays in the downtown core cannot be measured just in dollars. And while we shouldn't just flippantly consider $400,000 (the additional cost of the former Foodland building compared to the 390 Sykes Street option) as something we don't worry about, we do have to worry about it.”
Councillor Jaden Calvert was supportive of further exploring the potential for the former Foodland location, and he noted that he was pleased to see the inclusion of green space on the property.
“I'm hearing lots of positive feedback from people in the community. I love the addition of the green space, I think that our downtown needs more green space. It's a place for people to gather, hang out on the grass, read a book. There's so much to love about the 11 Sykes Street option,” said Calvert. “So, thumbs up from me.”
If the project moves forward, it would be the largest project undertaken by this term of council, a fact not lost on members of council.
“I'm elated and excited about 11 Sykes Street – creating a municipal anchor on that corner I think will be the legacy of this council, so I think that's thrilling,” said Councillor Shirley Keaveney.
While the building has been determined to be a suitable candidate, there is much work still to be done before council will be in a position to make any final decisions. Council unanimously approved four recommendations by staff as follows:
Adopt the Meaford Public Library Feasibility Study – Foodland Site report as completed by LGA Architectural Partners to be used as a guiding document in making future space allocation decisions for library uses; and
Direct Staff to engage the owner of 11 Sykes Street North in obtaining a third party appraisal on the property to determine fair market value with the intention of further property acquisition negotiations; and
Direct staff to continue negotiating minimum space needs for our community policing contract with the OPP and Infrastructure Ontario to allow for the surplus and sale of 390 Sykes Street with the intention of either: a. Entering into a long term lease agreement for the existing space at 390 Sykes Street by Infrastructure Ontario; or b. Developing new space at an alternate location, to include the existing Council Chambers at 157859 7th Line; and
Direct staff to develop a floorplan for the building currently used for the Meaford Public Library at 15 Trowbridge Street to house the Council Chambers and new office space.
The full report will be available on the municipal website (meaford.ca)